The Opera House
Wednesday, March 9
When Miranda July was a young kid she wrote a book called Lost Child! She begins her Writers Week festival talk with slide-show images of the cover and reads a few pages from the book – she can’t read it all (“it was a trilogy”). It sets the scene for a life spent perusing and pursuing art. It also, cleverly, positions this “renaissance woman of the digital age” as very much a hands-on, analogue-world, scissors/paper/glue/video-tapes make-and-modeller.
Along the tour of July’s rise and rise, through shitty jobs and petty theft to presenting one-woman-plays in between grunge and riot grrl groups, to books of short stories and movies and eventually novels and a range of performance-art pieces, living sculptures and various art-world ephemera, we’re reminded of the dud day-jobs (cashier, lock-popper for when you’ve shut your keys in the car) and night-jobs (stripper) that July worked through in her pursuit of both happiness and art. She says if these reminders are jarring, then good – the jobs were jarring.
A decision is made to no longer take any sort of day-job. She pays the rent the first month. The next month she sells her dad’s camera to make bank.
But her belief in her artistic self is strong. It builds. She builds. She finds a following through hard work at various crafts. And now she presents herself as essentially a pick-and-choose multi-skilled artist, actor, director, author. Projects sometimes overlap, other times the distraction and reset idea (interviewing people who are selling collections via print-medium junk mail) becomes the art, becomes the new idea; that in turn goes on to inspire fresh creations, fresh work.
July’s mini-memoir talk is an inspiring stroll through an off-beat life from the fringes to something very near the mainstream now, but something she still – and always – has full control over; artistic credibility too.
It ended with some audience participation tests, a thread that’s gone through her shows from when she was a teenager. And then the inevitable Q&A, where nobodies stand up at the microphone and make comparisons to the work they’re doing, and how wrapped they are with the progression of one Miranda July.
An inspiring talk. Insipid questions at the end. But when July was in control it was a quiet revelation – to see her continually finding herself (ever the Lost Child) through and in her work. There were great comments along the way – reminders that you can cast total nobody-strangers in your movies if it works for you to have them work for you. Reminders that your whole life is there, while you’re living it, to be mined for art, for work, for growth. Reminders that the most important thing you can have, when attempting any kind of writing, any kind of art, is faith in yourself and the project at hand.